Colorado’s Enforcement-Centered Approach to Immigration Continues to Hurt Most Vulnerable

Glenwood Springs,  CO – As Ana (last name  withheld) tried to explain to the police why her boyfriends’ chain was ripped,  her broken finger served as a way to show the damage she suffered as a result of  trying to defend herself from his attacks.

But despite her best  efforts and those of her friends to explain her self-defense to local  authorities, she was arrested and booked, leading to three months of horrifying  ordeals which led to a dismissal of any criminal charges against her. Although  innocent, she was still reported to  ICE and placed into deportation  proceedings; this despite protections under Colorado’s SB-90 which indicate that  police should not report domestic violence victims until conviction, in order to  give victims a chance to see justice.

SB-90 is the  Colorado version of the notorious Arizona SB-1070 law, the majority of which  just got struck down by the Supreme Court. While the “show me your papers” portion of SB-1070 in Arizona has yet to go into effect, this provision in  Colorado negatively impacts community safety, because people are afraid to go to  the cops and report crimes for fear of deportation. And because interactions  with law enforcement tend to lead to stories like Ana’s, and Virginia’s before  her, stories that spread like wildfire in immigrant communities, causing fear  and insecurity.

ACLU document  requests recently revealed that most law enforcement agencies in Colorado  ignored the protections for domestic violence victims that were part of the  SB-90 law, and applied the law too broadly. Most concerning for CIRC and the  ACLU is that with the recent implementation of the federal Secure Communities  (SCOMM) program across Colorado, even the minor protections that existed under  SB-90 have now been erased. Sheriffs all over Colorado have brought up SCOMM as  an excuse for ignoring SB-90 protections, showing the same inexcusable laxity as  the rampaging bankers – if everyone ignores the law, it must be the right thing  to do.

Denise Maes of the  ACLU of Colorado adds: “The  message from SCOMM is that interactions with law enforcement carry deportation  risks. SCOMM deters immigrants—including those with lawful status—from reporting  domestic violence, which diminishes law enforcement’s ability to adequately  respond to these crimes. Because domestic violence has far reaching public  safety implications, unreported crimes affect us all.”

SCOMM is an  overbroad dragnet program, which allows law enforcement officers to bring people  into jails and automatically check them against ICE databases. Colorado, with  both SB-90 and Secure Communities in operation, as well as 287G agreements in  some counties, has created one of the most extreme immigration enforcement  structures in the nation. And yet there is little to show that this system has  done anything other than create fear in immigrant communities.

“Ana’s case is just  one example of how programs like SCOMM and ‘show me your papers’ laws like SB-90  can hurt public safety and re-victimize members of our community. She was just  reaching out to law enforcement for protection, and in return she spent three  months in jail and was placed into deportation proceedings. I just learned today  that she was attacked again at the beginning of this year and did not report the  attack because of her fear and mistrust of local police,” said Brendan Greene,  Director of Campaigns and Membership at the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, “Having abusers in the street because people are afraid to report crimes doesn’t  make anyone safer.”

With both SCOMM and  SB-90 operating in Colorado, victims are afraid to come forward and report  crimes and local police, no matter how well meaning, can’t do anything to help.  This system is unsustainable, damaging to Colorado, and needs to be reviewed and  repealed before it damages more lives than it purports to help.